A bitterly cold winter’s morning, heavy snow, and another student protest. We’ve now seen a few student protests as they trudge past our Holborn offices lead by police on horseback. The more recent ones have looked rather less threatening than the 10th Nov Millbank fiasco. Losing troops to the local McDonald’s as they passed, they have been significantly less in numbers but a sinister air loomed over the crowd – many of whom were wearing masks and carrying sticks.
There seems to be a split in the type of student this political matter has attracted. The protests have clocked up over 400 arrests nationwide but it does seem that a small minority are causing the biggest stir. After being caught on camera throwing a fire extinguisher into a crowd of police, Edward Woolard has now been charged with violent disorder (which he has pleaded guilty to),resulting in student protesters donning masks to protect their identity (and somewhat resembling a deatheater scene from Harry Potter). It appears that these hooded figures are doing the smashing, throwing, attacking, igniting and general mayhem causing whilst a large majority are sticking to slightly more peaceful measures to get their point across. There’s the now famous group of school girls dubbed ‘the riot girls’ demonstrating against the violence. One the girls told the BBC “If they smash it up, it just proves the point that teenagers are out here today for violence. If we let the government portray us as violent then there is no way they are going to listen to us.”
Education Secretary Michael Gove told Sky News “I respond to arguments, I don’t respond to violence.” So are the Riot Girls right? Are these hooded figures ruining the chance of actually making a difference? As the protests go on, it does seem as though they are becoming less about the cause and more about general anarchy. During the 24th Nov kettling debacle, one girl screamed to cameras “It’s a joke. £9,000 a year?! That’s £21,000 over 3 years! **** that!” Based on that statement, it’s questionable whether she’s actually considered going to university or is just enjoying the drama of the whole thing.
A large majority of the protests have been peaceful, spanning Manchester, Bristol, Brighton and Oxford, and largely being about students standing up for what they believe. £9,000 a year is unbelievable and, although that is likely to be extreme cases, will stop a large amount of students being able to go on to higher education. So with that in mind it’s great that young people are making a stand for what they believe in and trying to protect their education. But will the extreme measures that some students are going to to make their point help the pockets of students for years to come? Are these drastic tactics necessary to demand the government’s attention? Or are they ruining things for the thousands of peaceful protestors who are truly trying to make a change? Whatever tactic they decide to take, let’s hope that someone in the Tories listens up, otherwise the future of the Graduate Market becomes a very questionable and uncertain place.
Elsie Rutterford is a consultant with the Graduate team at FreshMinds Talent